Friday, 28 February 2014

Jack of All Trades (2)

The second thing I did to earn money – this time an actual wage paid by a third party rather than just extra pocket money from my folks – was when I was eleven going on twelve. My dad got me the job helping out in a greengrocers owned by some guy he knew. I seem to remember the shop was on Lambeth Walk, but I can’t swear to that. It’s all so long ago, my memory of it is hazy to say the least.
The chap I worked for was quite young, as I recall, though I couldn’t tell you what he looked like. He didn’t let me serve customers as I had for several years in my parent’s shop, I was simply a fetch and carry boy, humping sacks of spuds, onions and sprouts, restocking the fruit display, sweeping up, cleaning windows and the like. By then I could add and subtract as quick as a mathematician and had a well-developed knack for charming customers, but I guess he just saw me as a kid and not capable enough to be trusted with his punters.
The one job I really hated doing was preparing the beetroot. Out in the shop’s back yard was an enormous copper cauldron and when a couple of sacks of beetroots were simmering away in it, the stink it gave off was horrible. Can’t remember the exact smell now, but think combination of cooking sprouts and boiling laundry and I reckon you’ll be somewhere close. That was the only chore I really didn’t like, but while humping heavy sacks about all day was no problem for a strong kid like I was, most of the time I was just bored stiff, a theme that was to follow me throughout most of my working life – bored, bored, dreadfully bored.
Though my time working there is more a ghost of a memory than anything more concrete, a few things have stayed with me – the first time I was told to go down the cellar for some empty boxes, for example. The cellar was at the bottom of a rickety wooden staircase and boy was it inky black down there. I was never happy in dark places, my over-active imagination peopling them with all kinds of witches, ghouls and monsters – the same ones that tormented me in nightmares – and the damp, musty smell, only helped flesh out my grim imaginings.
No intention of venturing into what had, in my young mind, now become hell’s vestibule, with only the glow from the open doorway behind me for company, I duly fumbled around on the wall for a light switch. I only discovered the switch had no cover on it when a jolt from the unprotected wires threw me against the opposite wall and I found myself, after a rapid tumble from top to bottom, in a crumpled heap at the foot of the stairs.
Winded and battered, heart playing bongos on my eardrums from the shock, I lay still for a moment, monsters forgotten, trying to assess whether I’d picked up more than a few bruises from my short, painful trip. A sound from above finally made me look up and there, framed in the doorway, stood my employer. Obviously come to investigate what all the crashing was about, he was peering down at me, holding his stomach and laughing fit to bust.
Back in the late 60s, health and safety, or anyone being sued for damages by a no win no fee solicitor, had never been heard of, so he could glean maximum amusement from my accident without fear of consequences. What a prick, I thought, he knew those live wires were hanging out and didn’t even bother to warn me.
When he got his laughter under control, to make me hate him a bit more, instead of asking if I was alright, he just told me to stop messing about, like falling down the stairs was my own stupid fault and to hurry up and get his boxes. In revenge, I sulked for the rest of the day, spent as much time as possible skiving off in the toilet and made every task last twice as long as usual.
While I again couldn’t tell you what she looked like now, this guy had a young wife, or possibly girlfriend, not sure which she was. I do know she was pretty and that from the first moment I clapped eyes on her, I was immediately in the grip of a major crush. She only had to crook her finger and there I was, a moon-eyed puppy dog, desperate to please and begging for praise.
One afternoon, I was in the back of the shop and when I heard her calling out from the flat above, I was off up the stairs like a rabbit out of a cannon, taking the stairs in threes, a blur of eagerness. Turned out that while decorating, she had managed to lock herself in one of the rooms. To avoid getting paint on them, all the doorknobs had been removed and without thinking, she’d pushed the door shut and trapped herself inside.
I didn’t know what to do, so I ran back downstairs to get help. I told my boss what had happened and it was then that the loathing I’d felt for him laughing at me for falling down the stairs was confirmed. “Leave the silly bitch where she is,” he said. “I’m too busy, she’ll just have to wait.” Well, I hated misogyny before I even knew there was a word for it, just as I’ve always hated injustice or bullying of any kind and if I’d ever felt any respect for him, I certainly didn’t after that. How dare he call my beloved a silly bitch. Not only that, but I figured she’d believe I was complicit in leaving her locked upstairs and to think she wouldn’t like me anymore cut deep.
One other thing about my time working there springs to mind and I’m not sure whether to laugh about it, or die of embarrassment. The shop hadn’t always been a green grocers, a fact born witness too by a number of mannequins that, along with piles of empty boxes and disused shelving units, were also stored in the dank cellar. Now, until I managed to get my hands on a soggy copy of Fiesta, which I found in the street, half floating in a rain puddle, I had little conception of what lay beneath a lady’s togs. My mother was brought up by Roman Catholic nuns, so flesh in my household was never on display and discussion of anything relating to the body or sex was such a terrible taboo, when a school mate once asked me if I’d ever spied on my sister in the bathroom (as he had on his), I remember my stomach knotting in horror and my throat constricting with revulsion at the mere thought.
Fiesta was a nudie mag, but by today’s standards, tame to say the very least, being no more than a collection of page three type topless poses, any possible glimpse of pudenda being painted out or waxed over. Oddly enough, this matched with my only previous experience of curiously looking up the skirts of my sister’s dolls to find out what delights they hid and here I was confronted by a number of female shop dummies who were anatomically the same. That is too say, smooth.
Hormones fizzing and knowing no better, I found those dummies oddly arousing and spent rather more time in the cellar than I otherwise would have, or indeed, had need to. I was fascinated by them and let’s just say, I wasn’t always down there only collecting empty boxes. All part of the growing up process, I suppose, so I harbour no deep sense of shame about it.
I would like to point out that this didn’t tip over into some kind of macabre lifelong fetish and neither do the dead eyes and painted on faces of blow up women bring back any similar lustful rushes of blood. It was a brief love affair and once I left that job and moved on, my mannequin harem was soon forgotten, as was the pretty partner of my chauvinist employer.
At that age, passions burn bright, hurt for a time, then fizzle out as quickly as they came. Exquisitely painful while they last, admittedly, but gone in a flash. Besides, by that time, I had moved on to a deep, unrequited love, for a dimpled friend of my older sister and the glimpses of stocking top and suspender which her 1960s' style mini skirt offered up on a regular basis to rock my young world. When my sister's two friends got into play fights, boy oh boy, they were about the most erotic thing my innocent young eyes had ever become glued to.

As for the beetroot cauldron, I couldn’t see the back of that foul-smelling bugger soon enough, nor my pig of a boss.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Fickle Fate

Finding madness in life’s bitter dish
Eat like a mouse, drink like a fish

Clinging by nails, losing my grip
Clinging by nails, feeling them slip

Driven insane by worry and fears
Driven to drink that flows out in tears

Frustration and anger tearing apart
Noise in my head, pain in my heart

Limbo the place I’ve come to dwell
Emotions a prison, home but a cell

Thoughts they tumble, twist and whine
Thoughts so odd they can’t be mine

Drown them with the cheapest drink
But drunk or sober, think, think, think

No one to tell the things in my head
Solitary breakfast, alone to my bed

Escape into sleep is only too brief
Ponder if death would be a relief

Struggling on while heaving a sigh
Try to be strong though starting to cry

Did karma bring me to this sorry state
Or a cold, cruel twist of old fickle fate

Tuesday, 25 February 2014


Language so like a bottomless pit
Ignore its depths and lessen the wit.
Language provides for all you need say
Serious or not, both at work or at play.
Language alive, constrained by no rule
To the poet a flower, to the writer a tool.
Speech that medium by which men get through
Who they are, what they want, all they think, need or do.
Speak of your feelings, of your heart and your mind
Join more fully with those of your kind.
Language evolving, increasing your power
Expanding your faculties hour on hour.
Words, the ingredients when you want to write
Whether your recipe be fulsome, pretentious or trite.
A ladle of this, a soupcon of that
Baked in the oven kept under your hat.
If a book is a meal, perhaps potato or rice
Vocabulary lacking is food without spice.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Penny for Them

I get the answers right
I think people should pay for them
But I’m afraid they’re all too tight

I do it by the hour
Yet still nobody pays the tab
What a flaming shower

My thoughts like diamonds shine
Still not a penny comes my way
Stingy flipping swine

Facts turned into thought
My ideas they should be priceless
But not a one gets bought


Monday, 17 February 2014

Daily Mail 1837

Daily Mail 1837
Not satisfied with the mill owner’s generous concession of a ninety-six hour working week, worker’s representatives – rabble rousers to a man – are now demanding two full days off a year and this in addition to Christmas day and Easter Sunday, upon which holy days they already stand idle and unproductive.
Sir Barty Ringbit, speaking from his eighty acre mansion in the Cotswolds, told us he is appalled by this latest imposition. “It was barely two years ago,” he said, “that we gave in to their clamour for a farthing a month pay rise. On top of an agreement that those dying of consumption or tuberculosis should no longer be held responsible for training their replacements, this latest outrage is nothing short of blackmail”.
Another mill owner, Lord Vileness of Bilgewater, told the Mail that since the abolition of slavery in 1833 and the concomitant increases in cotton prices from the colonies, he has been forced to sell one of his three stately homes and can now only visit his winter abode in Saint Moritz for a bare two months of the year.
“At this rate,” he continued, “members of my own family could soon be forced to take some small hand in the business, carrying out what can only be described as acts of common labour such as overseeing floggings and the like. This is an intolerable state of affairs and must not be countenanced at any cost.”
Taking a break from his sojourn in the spa town of Cambridge, Lord Vileness told us he would be raising this issue in the House of Lords the moment it returned from its summer recess in seven weeks time.
“If we continue to cave in to these scurrilous demands,” he said, “the next thing we shall hear is that children should be in school rather than being usefully employed manning the looms from dawn to dusk, or cleaning the chimneys of the gentry. It seems these Bolsheviks believe their snot nosed progeny should be given their bread and water as a right and not have to earn it with a little honest toil, which has clearly been shown to be beneficial in building moral fibre and in my opinion, has never harmed anyone. Not amongst the lower orders, at any rate, who clearly need a purpose in life forced upon them if they are not to turn out as cutpurses, highwaymen and vagabonds.”
The Duke of Sainsbree, delaying his philanthropic visit to Newgate prison where he annually distributes rotting meat and weevil-infested bread – that is yet to reach its not lethal until date – to the grubby inmates, responded to this question of worker’s rights, telling this reporter:
“I am a charitable man and work tirelessly for three days of the year to alleviate the suffering of the less fortunate. However, if we continually give in to unreasonable and costly demands, such as miners being allowed topside once a day to see the sun, or their bints being allowed several hours leave of absence for the purpose of whelping their cross-eyed bastards, then I can see a time when, emboldened by our inaction, the under classes will be fighting for old age pensions and the right to cease their labours before death has taken them.”
"As for claims that we should be employing those with missing limbs as a sop to the unfortunates of the world, this is clearly ludicrous. God visited these torments upon them - no doubt with good reason - and whether such appendages were lost in factory machinery or in tavern brawls, is neither here nor there.”
The Duke’s protégé, Baron Tesko of Littlehelpington, added, “Unless our troops are brought in to crush such rebellions by these villainous and ungrateful serfs, those of higher breeding and status may struggle to maintain their elite places in society and perhaps even face a challenge to their rightful ownership of 95% of the nation’s wealth and be forced to exile themselves in countries such as Switzerland where Sir Phillip of Collins and Saint Bono Du Taxdodge have already taken refuge.
Everything changes but everything remains the same. Read above article again and see the similarities between the nineteenth century and the tweny-first. Welcome to the beginning of the new Victorian age – soup kitchens and workhouses not just on their way, already here, but renamed “Workfare” and “Foodbank”.
Exaggerating? Am I?

Friday, 14 February 2014

A Valentine Poem

She opened her eyes
And the skies were in them.
She opened her arms
Displaying her charms.
She opened her mouth
And a tide of red rolled in and out,
Whispering on a porcelain beach.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Now I'm Really Sick of Winter!

Now I am really sick of winter. Sheets of rain today.
Just been out for shopping and was damn near blown away.

Midday and the heat’s on, and the bloody light’s on too.
It’s costing us all fortunes, but what else can we do?

The trees they are a bending, battered by this storm force gale.
I’m sick of all this water; sick of snow and sleet and hail.

Now I am really sick of winter and the bloody pounding rain.
It gave me a thorough drenching and I’m not going out again.

Sick of having fingers, like Captain Birdseye’s, kept on ice.
Lounging on a sun-drenched beach, now that would be real nice.

Sick for the flood victims, the deluge slashing at an angle.
Sick of a useless government who let the poor sods dangle.

Now I am really sick of winter, with its bleak depression.
Not at all happy, fair to say, if I’ve not given that impression.

The wind it’s a howling banshee, skies as miserable as hell.
I am sick of this effing winter! CAN EVERYBODY TELL?

Friday, 7 February 2014

Come Dine at Christmas

Is it possible to get the complete giggles whilst sitting alone on Boxing day watching TV? Well I did this year, so yes, it most certainly is. If you happen to be watching “Come Dine With Me.” at any rate.
This show is class anyway, though where they keep finding groups of people who are so thick, or arrogant, or rude, or stupid, or useless at cooking whilst thinking they’re Gordon Ramsay, or bloody irritating, or just plain nuts, is beyond me. When you watch this programme, you hate half the contestants, feel sorry for some of them, and then decide one of them isn’t really so bad and then hope and pray they win, whilst also praying the most annoying wally comes last and is therefore humiliated. Fortunately, it often works out that way.
The episode in question which set me off guffawing actually had five people in it who weren’t as aggravating as usual, but oh boy! There was a girl so thick and wooden two short planks doesn’t even begin to describe it. Anyway, it wasn’t even that which gave me the giggles…
A super posh guy – Tim nice but dim – decided to have a wartime austerity Christmas dinner. He’s a history buff and used that as his theme for his dinner party. He’s the sort of bloke whose eyes roll back up in his head when he’s trying to think of what to say, with a mouth full of white tombstones in place of teeth. Very nice, but dumb as they come.
So, the guy makes an austerity Christmas cake, which he said he was sweetening with carrot because during the war they couldn’t get any sugar. Just after saying that, however, he says, and I’ll just add a few drops of vanilla essence. Um, 1939, no sugar in sight, but they’ve got vanilla essence. Yeah right. Very authentic.
Then he makes what he calls ‘Murkey’. I’ve heard of this before, it’s mock turkey and consists of sausage meat mixed with apple and onion, shaped into a bird shape and finished with rashers of bacon. He burnt it black. But wait…
One of the diners asked why it’s called ‘Murkey’ and the host explained, “it’s mock turkey and there is also ‘mock duck’“, which if he’d had a vegetarian present, he said he would have made for them, whereupon the thick bird (bless her) asked with a completely straight face and in all seriousness “and is that called ‘muck?’”
Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa ha ha ha. Brilliant. Cheered me up no end. I was laughing so hard I thought I’d cracked a rib.

Why they call it mock duck anyway, I have no clue. Apparently it's some wheat-gluten-based vegetarian concoction, with sugar, oil and soy sauce, so why duck? I mean, I wouldn't roast a pork knuckle and call it "mock carrot". Makes no sense at all. Mind you, these half-hearted veggies have a penchant for disguising their grub as various types of meat and I bet it tastes every bit as terrible as that other pointless rubbish, Quorn*. That's not mock anything, it's just plain muck.  
Then, just to round it all off, the next host insists her dinner party has a Christmas panto theme, so they all arrive in fancy dress. Two of the men turn up dressed as Christmas puddings, which is a great source of merriment to the other guests. Thing is, one of the men, a posh Scottish guy with the moustache and bearing of a wing commander, turns up dressed as a pudding, but also has the tightest red shorts on you have ever seen and either he has stuffed them with something or he has the biggest testicles in all creation and you can see all the other guests squirming and desperately trying not to look at his crotch.
Fantastic. One more dinner party to go as I write this, which I’m off to watch now, but surely it can’t get any more surreal. Can it?
Oh, and if you are wondering why I’m only posting this now in February, I got very drunk on Boxing night and forgot I’d written it. Just found it in my documents and I think there could be a few more forgotten pieces lurking in there as well. Watch this space.

* See, "Quorn - what's that all about." Elsewhere on this blog.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

I Can't Stand Noise

I must be cracking on, I must be getting old
I can’t stand noise and I really hate the cold
Time ain’t nice and time ain’t kind
It screws with your body, screws with your mind
Every bloody day, another painful twinge
Makes you have a moan, makes you have a whinge
The years roll by with their wear and tear
The loss of youth’s none too easy to bear
Eyes start to fail and joints begin to grind
And don’t try to kid me that you don't mind
I had get up and go once, but it got up and went
Soon I will be ancient and craggy-faced and bent
It doesn’t feel fair and it doesn’t feel right
Getting up to have a pee four times every night
Can’t run for a bus, can’t run up the stairs
Hair once dark now awash with silver hairs
I used to have hot passions and lots of fire and drive
Now I need to check my pulse to see if I’m alive
I must be cracking on, I must be getting old
I can’t stand noise and I hate the blasted cold

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Sweet Paranoia

Shall I tell you when I first became aware that the New World Order had singled out the British as a target for annihilation? When I first noticed that our culture and way of life were being undermined and our brains got at? No? Well I’m going to tell you anyway. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, smelly bottom.
It first began in 1963 with a fizzy drink called Tizer. Without warning, they withdrew Tizer from sale because it contained traces of cocaine … or so they claimed! It returned to the shelves several years later, minus the cocaine, but laden with artificial colours and sweeteners. Now, I grew up drinking Tizer, by the time I was eight going through a large bottle a day and back then I was always full of energy and enthusiasm. Now, a year away from being sixty, no matter how much Tizer I drink, I have no energy or enthusiasm at all and I don’t think that’s any coincidence. Do you?
The next target for their unholy plan was chocolate coated peanuts. Yes, you heard me right, peanuts in chocolate. For many years this particular confection came in a brown wrapper that reminded you of chocolate and indeed, you were not disappointed, each individual peanut being covered in chocolate and coated in a chocolate-coloured candy shell. For all those years they were called Peanut Treats. A treat – something you got for behaving right, or for doing well at something. A reward, if not for being the best, but for doing your best. A treat, a small encouragement to strive and attain and a reward for having striven and attained, traits that have always made the British top of the leader board for always being the best at everything.
Then suddenly, they were no longer treats, but M&Ms. Now you may work hard to gain a treat for being the best (or British), but who’s going to bother their backsides for an M&M? What does M&M stand for anyway? Manipulation and mind control, that’s what. Once uniformly chocolate brown, they became an array of eye-twisting colours, bright blues, yellows, reds and greens, leading to feelings of confusion. Pop something into your mouth that’s electric blue, but get hit with the taste of chocolate and that can’t be right. One doesn’t marry up with the other and this disorientation is only exacerbated by all the chemical dyes and E-numbers you have ingested.
They then moved on to Opal Fruits, an image that conjures up purity and freshness. Indeed, fruits as pure as opal. Starburst, that’s what they changed them too and what does a Starburst do? That’s right, both blinds you to danger and irradiates you, further lowering your resistance to their evil blandishments. How can you keep being British and the best at everything at the forefront of your mind under such a constant radiation bombardment?
What came next should have been totally obvious, as they rubbed our noses in their manipulations, but while many were annoyed by the change, most failed to see the true significance of it. Marathon, a chocolate bar – coincidentally also heavily laden with peanuts – became Snickers. Snickers is something associated with horses (note: horses are beasts of burden) and can also be used as a synonym for sniggers. Yes, they were blatantly telling us that they consider us to be no more than beasts of burden at whom they are sniggering.
A marathon, on the other hand, is a gruelling challenge that takes perseverance, strength, courage and heaps of determination to see through to the end. A task so daunting that, once completed, you would previously have been given a Treat for doing so. Now all you get is a daft Jim’ll Fix It style medal (which no one in their right minds would want now anyway), a bag of M&Ms and a chocolate bar that, far from being a reward for a job well done, is actually laughing at your endeavours. Snickers/sniggers at you, in fact.
I know they eventually caved in to pressure and returned the name Snickers to Marathon, but they’d already had their laughs at our expense by then and likely thought it would be no bad thing to throw us all off the scent, anyway. Make no mistake, however, every time you go into the local newsagent and buy a marathon, or train for months on end (picking up various unnecessary joint injuries along the way) and then run a marathon, they will still be snickering at you.
But, you say, all these are nothing more than childish sweeties and you would be right. However, have you never heard the phrases “get them early” and “ show me the boy of seven and I’ll show you the man”? A lot of us olden’s were already too steeped in Britishness and being the best at everything for their mind games and subtle poisons to take full effect and that’s why they aimed their assault at the children.
If you don’t believe me, take a look around. Children are now taking part in non-competitive sport where everyone is a winner no matter how useless they are. Got two left feet and can’t kick a football to save your life? Never mind, here’s a winners’ medal anyway for the taking part, part. Can’t jump over that bar? Not to worry, here’s your trophy for giving it a very poor try. Oh, that plaque on my wall? I won that for coming last in the 100metres sprint. And does anyone really think the English cricket team have any clue as to what it means to be British and the best at everything? Come on now, don’t kid a kidder.
Of course, they have done similar things with more adult foods and beverages. Take Mackeson stout. Once you were told it looks good, tastes good and by golly it does you good. Two world wars were fought and won on Mackeson, the greatest empire the world has ever seen was fuelled by Mackeson, so it clearly wasn’t doing us a lot of harm. But, oh no, all of a sudden they weren’t allowed to tell you that Mackeson did you good anymore and where is it now? Gone, defunct, consigned to the dustbin of history – just as they want the British to be.
Fish and chips, good solid British fare. Food to fill and nourish, giving you the strength to maintain the aforementioned empire, but disappearing fast; a metaphor for what is happening to our people and our culture. What is fish and chips being replaced by? Chinese food, full of monosodium glutamate and other scientifically produced crap, which leaves you hungry an hour after eating it. Indian food, also laced with chemicals, that gives you flatulence and a sore arse. Have you ever tried riding a horse into battle with flatulence and a sore arse? No, of course you haven’t. The British didn’t become the best at everything by farting the national anthem and rubbing Vaseline onto their burning bums. No sir.
I can see you all nodding your heads as the penny finally drops and you realise just how nefarious these people really are. And can the British be saved? Possibly not, but we can make a start by putting our own cocaine back in the Tizer; by giving ourselves and our kids a Treat for a job well done - while telling them to shove their M&Ms up their own brown packets; by leaving the Starbursts to irradiate the sweet shop shelves; by wrapping up our fish and chips in week-old newspaper once again (whether the health Nazis bleedin' like it or not) and by drinking copious amounts of Guinness and pretending it’s Mackeson and therefore doing you good - despite the upset stomach and banging headache next morning.
Come on people! Take back your Britishness and be proud. Be the best once again, as we always were and should be again!
And God save Elizabeth Sachsen-Coburg Und Gotha (their name until 1917 when they changed it to Windsor to keep us subjects sweet), our beloved German Queen!

The Wish I Wish I Had to Wish

If I had a single wish
If I only had one go
I would not ask for money
I’m used to living low
If I had a single wish
If allowed just one of things
I would not ask for treasure
I have no use for rings
If I had a single wish
If the fates would grant just one
I would not ask for stardom
I’m used to having none
If I had a single wish
If my wish would come out true
I would not ask for power
I’ve got enough to do
If I had a single wish
If that wish would make it so
I know just what I’d wish for
I’d only need one go
If I had a single wish
If I only had the one
I would not wish for ‘ever’
Just enough time to be done

Monday, 3 February 2014

When the Darkness Comes

When the darkness comes down and the black dog bites
If the days seem hard, but much harder the nights
When hope is afar and despair all too near
If little is left barring worry and fear

If your friends turn away and leave you in pain
When heartbeats are thunder and tears fall like rain
If karma has dealt you yet one more dead hand
When plans go awry like a rocket unmanned

When nightmares are all that you get from your sleep
If you wake in the dawn and can’t help but weep
When your trust in people has crashed on a reef
If a loved one smiles but then kicks in your teeth

If you can’t see the point of each waking morn
When you try to be brave, though feeling forlorn
If fate cruelly removes that last friendly face
When even from God you are feeling no grace

Keep up that chin and your shoulders well back
Hold your head high as you walk down life’s track
All things must pass and your pain will too soon
So sing out defiance, or whistle its tune

The darkness of death should offer no fears
Before you were born passed billions of years
In this life or the next, some peace you will find
So take a deep breath and keep that in mind